Epic (2013) / Animation-Fantasy
MPAA rated: PG for some violence, scary images and brief rude language
Running time: 102 min.
Cast (voice): Amanda Seyfried, Colin Farrell, Christoph Waltz, Beyonce Knowles, Jason Sudeikis, Josh Hutcherson, Steven Tyler, Aziz Ansari, Chris O'Dowd, Pitbull, Jake Andrson, Judah Friedlander
Director: Chris Wedge
Screenplay: James V. Hart, William Joyce, Daniel Shere, Tom J. Astle, Matt Ember
Review published June 27, 2013
Epic is a Blue Sky (producers of the Ice Age series) computer-generated animated feature adaptation of the ecology-minded children's book, "The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs," by William Joyce. It took a team of five separate writers (perhaps more un-credited) to flesh out what ends up being quite a boring, by-the-numbers adventure tale. Those who've seen the recent Avatar will find some of the messages and themes to seem familiar, though that film itself is a hodge-podge of other ideas, including, most notably, Ferngully. This one also adds a helping or two of Honey I Shrunk the Kids.
The main heroine of the story is teenager Mary Katherine (aka "MK", voice by Amanda Seyfried, Les Miserables), recovering from the untimely loss of her mother who travels out to the country to live with her mostly absent (and absent-minded) scientist father, Prof. Bomba (Sudeikis, Horrible Bosses). Her loopy dad is living out in the woods, trying to prove the existence of Moonhaven, a civilization of insect-sized people caught in a war between life and death right in their midst. MK's adventure begins when she strolls into the woods in search of her father's three-legged pug, Ozzy, only to find herself shrunk down to miniature size herself after a chance encounter with none other than their nature-loving leader, Queen Tara (Beyonce, Obsessed), who has just selected a pod containing her eventual 100-year replacement. Unfortunately, an attack by the Rot-producing Mandrake (Waltz, Django Unchained) and his herd of evil Boggans takes the Queen out of the equation, leaving MK as the sole protector of the heir apparent. Her mission is to deliver the pod to the 'magical' caterpillar named Nim Galuu (Tyler, The Polar Express), with the help of Ronin (Farrell, Seven Psychopaths), head of the army protecting the Queen, known as 'leaf men', and Ronin's godson, a green recruit named Nod (Hutcherson, The Hunger Games).
The main knock on Epic is that it generates little excitement or interest due to its strict adherence to archetypal standards and a failure to give us protagonists we can truly care about. Everything is written on the level of bland and safe, painting within the lines of what you'd expect. Though the 3D CGI aspects of the film aren't poorly done, they are about as generic as the story itself. Director Chris Wedge (Robots) does a decent job keeping things fluid, with interesting 'camera' angles to showcase the various locations, whether underground or high in the sky, but he can't quite bring much life to the patchwork script.
It isn't all dismal. Some of the characters do produce amusement for the kids, including Ozzy, the irracible pug with depth perception issues. Then there's a comic relief duo consisting of a snail named Grub (O'Dowd, This is 40) and a slug named Mub (Ansari, I Love You Man), and they are actually fairly amusing, at least compared to the rest of the characterizations. One might wish the story could have revolved around their characters instead of the cookie-cutter heroes and bad guys that permeate the bulk of the conflict. There is a slow-motion effect employed whenever the miniature people perceive something happening by the "big" characters that is also interesting, though why the small-ish pug is shown to move every bit as slow as Bomba is something that is largely unexplained in the story.
Perhaps kids might not mind a tale featuring colorful creatures, funny animal personalities, and an easily-understood plot, but adults may grow restless, if not zone out altogether from the flaccid plotline's strict adherence to formula. By trying so hard to not do anything wrong, the filmmakers don't take any necessary risks to elevate the material to showcase anything new or novel, and what results less than rousing and instantly forgettable. Despite its title, this is a pic that's far from 'epic'.
©2013 Vince Leo